Noseybonk! – How Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Mum Helped Me Through Times Of Terror When I Was A Kid
No matter how idyllic your childhood was, in a way it was a bit like a nightmare.I don’t mean that you spent large swathes of your formative years being chased by psychedelic boots with teeth or anything like that. No, I mean that what you were scared of wasn’t necessarily what you, or the adults administrating your nightmare, would have thought.
When I was about eight, I had a recurring nightmare. To this day it’s the scariest nightmare I’ve ever had. And it was just a Popeye cartoon. A silent, monochrome Popeye cartoon playing inside my sleeping head. Nothing bad happened in that cartoon, but I always woke up halfway through it, drenched in sweat and inexplicably terrified.
It wasn’t as if I had an aversion to Popeye during my waking hours. Quite the opposite in fact. Popeye was one of my favourite cartoons (after Tom and Jerry and Topcat, obviously). Still, the Popeye nightmare scared the living shit out of me for months.
The things that my parents thought I might be scared of didn’t phase me at all though. They reluctantly let me stay up on Friday nights and watch old horror films. Frankenstein, Dracula and that sort of thing. I loved those films. They didn’t scare me because I knew they were pretend. I’d seen Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee interviewed by Michael Parkinson on his talk show. They seemed really nice, so what reason would I have to be scared of them? It would make no sense. Then again, neither does having nightmares about spinach munching sailors but the human mind is a peculiar thing.
Some of the memories of my childhood are so surreal that I often think my brain has just made them up in a moment of boredom. Actually, I’m often not alone in this thought. Many years ago, I was getting stoned with some close friends and a memory popped into my head. A television memory.
Through sporadic fits of giggles, I told my friends that I remembered a TV show that starred Molly Sugden and the officers from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. They had accidently been launched into space and the show was a sitcom that was basically Are You Being Served but set on an orbiting spaceship.
Quite naturally, my friends didn’t believe a word of it and suggested that I might want to switch to normal cigarettes for a half hour or so until I’d calmed down a bit. I took their advice of course, because your true friends always have your best interests at heart, but I left their flat in the early hours of the morning still insisting that the Molly Sugden In Space sitcom actually had been on the telly.
Against all probability, it turned out that I was right and my friends were wrong. There really was a sitcom set in space starring quite a bit of the casts of Are You Being Served and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. It was called Come Back Mrs Noah and it was every bit as awful as you’d think. I looked it up on You Tube one day and there it was. That was a magnificent moment of vindication, I don’t mind telling you.
There was another television programme from my childhood that I also couldn’t quite believe actually existed. So I You Tubed that as well. This time I was hoping not to be vindicated, but sadly, vindicated I was.
The programme was called Jigsaw and there was a character in it called Noseybonk. I was terrified of Noseybonk. Jigsaw was a tea-time kids’ programme, by the way, but Noseybonk still sent shivers down my spine. You want to know why? Well, watch this and you’ll see why.
You see? It’s like watching A Clockwork Orange on bad acid. I’m 45 and I still find that a bit sinister. Imagine the effect it had on the mind of an 11 year old boy, which is what I was by the time this show hit British TV screens. I still tuned in every week though. I put up with Noseybonk every week for one reason. It was presented by Janet Ellis.
If you never watched Jigsaw, or Blue Peter for that matter, you may not know who Janet Ellis is. Well, she’s Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s mum. Imagine Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s startling good looks but toned down a little bit. In fact, don’t imagine it. Here’s a picture of her. It’s a still taken from one of her appearances on Jigsaw.
Noseybonk gave me bad butterflies in my stomach. Janet Ellis gave really good, completely different butterflies. So because of Janet, I put up with Noseybonk. Or more frequently went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea while he was on.
Why was I so afraid of Noseybonk anyway? He was just a bloke in a mask. He was like Boris Karloff playing Frankenstein’s Monster and I wasn’t remotely afraid of Frankenstein’s Monster. It’s not like I didn’t know who was behind the Noseybonk mask. I knew exactly who it was. It was Adrian Hedley, Janet Ellis’ co-presenter. Here’s a picture of him, also a still taken from the show.
Not remotely scary, right? Ok, he looks like bit of a twat in that photo, but not a scary twat. There’s a good reason for that. It’s a photo and therefore you can’t see Adrian moving. If you could see him moving, you would soon realize with horror that the reason he’s dressed like a twat is that he is a Mime. In a child’s mind, a Mime is just a gnat’s whisker away from a Clown. And we all know how children feel about Clowns.
In fact, you could argue that a Mime is actually worse than a clown. At least Clowns are noisy what with the big flappy shoes and the comedy car horns and whatnot. They can’t sneak up in you. A Mime is like a Clown Ninja. The first thing you’d know about his presence would be when he was right up in your face, annoying you by pretending to be trapped in an invisible box.
This is why the trick I employed not to be afraid of Frankenstein’s Monster didn’t work with Noseybonk. Taking Noseybonk’s mask off to reveal the Mime beneath would be like taking Boris Karloff’s mask of and finding that underneath it was not Boris Karloff but an actual werewolf ready to bite your face off.
Another reason I didn’t like Noseybonk was that, being quite well endowed in the nose department myself, Noseybonk became one of my many nicknames for the entire run of the show. It was on for six years.
I’m an adult now though. No one calls me Noseybonk and I know exactly what I’m scared of and why I’m scared of it. I’m scared of poverty and wars and tax increases and all the other stuff that frightens the crap out of my fellow grow-ups. My fears were a lot more nebulous when I was a kid. I kind of miss that.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015